Punch it!

Sometimes you have to take a risk!

Whether it is quitting a stable job to follow a passion, or trying a new dish outside your comfort zone, or moving to a new country or city or giving a new person a try for friendship or more. They say you don't really live without taking risk..

So, I took a risk. I made myself this sandwich with a fish that I can't say I love. So, I am taking a risk. In posting photos of a whole fried fish, in all its possibly repulsive possible awe-inspiring glory. The first time in tasting was a worthy risk. This one, in posting, you tell me...! :)

Every time a whole fish is brought to the table, there is a collective gasp from the diners. Conversations pause, people stare and there that micro-moment of silence before the OMG moment. Usually, reactions vary from absolute awe at the reality of the fish having been a fish before it became meal, to disgust at the sight of the heat opaqued eyes and bristly fins, to a loss of speech in simply trying to deal with an unusual sight. Whichever way you may feel about a whole cooked fish, presented as is, you cannot deny the novelty of it.

So, now that I have set the grounds, go ahead and imagine that whole fish between two slices of toasted bread, slathered with mayo and topped with a fresh fruit salsa. Yeah, you see! Big Risk. But, you know what?! Also, Big Reward!

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I chose Sardine. I have said it before, they are not my favorite fish to eat as is, because of their rather pungent flavor; Like chicken liver. Actually, exactly like chicken liver!! I just had an Epiphany as I was typing this! That is probably why I like both of them in pates diluted with large amounts of butter and masking spices! Give me the fat and smooth spread without the stick-in-my-palate flavor.

Anyway, you are probably wondering; If I resist the flavor that much, why bother? Well, I could sound egalitarian and say, for personal growth. To teach myself to be open and take pleasure in all forms of life that can be meal. The reality is, I am stubborn. The more the fish stumps me, the more I am determined to find a way to enjoy it! And, really it is not simply for the joy of it. Sardines are really, really cheap, and, a fabulous source of all those elusive but necessary nutrients. So, if only I can tame the flavor, I will be all set for my 50s!

Therefore, I embarked on this experiment, when I recently found fairly giant sized sardines at my market. Giant by sardine standards. I mean, they were whole sandwich sized specimens, certainly not the ones that would fit in a can! Putting aside niggling doubts of mutations, I decided to give it a go.

Long story short, it was a success, which, is why it is here. What I found was that

  1. The bigger the sardine, the less sardine-y it tastes - check!
  2. When you fry it with spices, the better it tastes - score!
  3. Squishing it bread, acts like the butter bit in pates; un-intensing the flavor - woop!
  4. The fruit adds a freshness much needed for an oily, palate sticking fish like the sardine - BOOM!

That's the story, folks!

Forget the battered cod; Go make yourself a fried sardine sammy!

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Fried Sardine + Peach & Corn Salsa Sandwich

1 Baguette or choice of bread

Mayo

1/2 tsp of harissa

For the fried sardine:

1 big sardine or two small ones person

1 tsp harissa

2/3 tsp turmeric

sea salt and pepper to season

3 T olive oil for shallow frying

For the Peach Salsa:

1 ripe peach, skin peeled if desired

1 ripe tomato

1 ear of fresh sweet corn

1 jalapeno

juice of 1 lemon

salt to season

handful of cilantro

Clean the sardine and set aside.

In a small bowl, mix together the harissa, salt, pepper and turmeric with a little olive oil. Spread the mixture evenly over the fish and let it marinate for 10-30 minutes.

Meanwhile, dice all the salsa ingredients except the corn. On an open flame roast the corn until charred. Shave the fresh kernels into a bowl. Add the remaining ingredients and toss to mix. Refrigerate until sandwich assembly.

When ready, heat oil in a frying pan large enough to fit the whole fish. When it is hot, gently place the sardine in the oil. 

Cover (to minimise splatter) and leave it undisturbed for 3 minutes.

Flip over the fish and cook on the other side till crisped and cooked through. Remove to a paper towel to drain excess oil.

Slice the baguette horizontally. In the same pan, add a half teaspoon of harissa and toast the inside of the baguette or bread slices. 

Spread a little mayo on the base. Place the fish on the bread slice and top with salsa.

Top with other half of sandwich bread and take a huge, messy and fun, tasty bite!